The relationship between Kevin Dodd and the Titans continued its downward spiral on Sunday when news broke that he had been added to the rarely used Reserve-Did Not Report list. This designation is almost exclusively reserved for players holding out for a new contract — which is obviously not the case here — and extreme cases such as Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain with the Cowboys in 2016. So it is pretty eyebrow raising for Dodd to get this designation.
The players reporting on Sunday were quarterbacks, rookies, and players who ended minicamp with an injury designation. The remainder of the team will report on Wednesday. The Titans were not required to report injuries during minicamp or OTAs so there is some mystery surrounding who was actually required to be there Sunday, but it’s clear the team expected Dodd to be among the group reporting. Dodd was held out of 11-on-11 drills during minicamp with no specific explanation given besides Vrabel’s comment when asked about it by the media.
“(He) was basically unavailable at some times at practice,” coach Mike Vrabel said when asked about Dodd’s status. “We always ask our guys to focus on things they can do as opposed to things they can’t. I think that through the course of practice, whether that be in an individual drill, if a guy can’t go on we’re certainly not going to have him go out there in a team period and finish. We have a plan for everybody that’s out there.”
Regardless of whether Dodd was injured or not, he was supposed to be there on Sunday and he wasn’t. Paul Kuharsky reported that Rishard Matthews, another player that ended minicamp as a limited participant, was excused from the Sunday report group and will instead be reporting with the rest of the team on Wednesday. Matthews did not receive the same designation that Dodd did so that tells us, at the very least, that Dodd has failed to communicate his absence with the team.
If Dodd is, in fact, going through some serious personal issue then it is on the Titans to at least provide some vague statement that protects him from undue criticism while protecting his privacy. The team has to be aware of how this would be received by the fan base. However, without such a statement, the most logical explanation for this designation is that Dodd is simply no-showing for camp.
If that’s the case, it’s time for the team to move on from Dodd. He has become nothing more than a walking distraction. The Did Not Report designation will guarantee that one of the first questions asked of Mike Vrabel when they open camp will be about Dodd. For a guy who is currently — at best — the 5th outside linebacker on the team, the player isn’t worth the headache anymore. Dodd won’t have any trade value — short of maybe a conditional 7th — given his lack of production on the field and now questions surrounding his level of commitment.
I’ve seen some suggest that the team should hold on to him right up until the 53-man roster deadline before cutting him as a way of getting back at him and limiting his chances at catching on elsewhere, but that only allows the distraction to drag on. Additionally, being vindictive towards a player is a bad look for a franchise no matter what the player has done, and nothing that Dodd has done rises to the level of that kind of reaction.
I held on to hope for Dodd longer than most. The flashes he showed early in his rookie season — the Lions game in particular — were very promising at times. It’s easy to look back now and criticize the pick — the Titans should have taken Myles Jack, Michael Thomas, Chris Jones, Xavien Howard, etc, etc, etc — but lots of analysts had first round grades on Kevin Dodd coming in to the draft. It’s fair to wonder if this would have been the result if Dodd had not suffered the foot injury that essentially robbed him of his first two offseasons as a pro.
In that sense, I feel bad for him. The injury was clearly mishandled by the former coaching staff who essentially called him out for being soft in the media before recognizing that he actually needed a second operation on his foot following his rookie season. Those were bad breaks, but Dodd has not responded to that adversity well. Missing voluntary OTAs isn’t a big deal for most players — they are voluntary after all — but for a guy that was coming off two very disappointing seasons and was needing a good offseason to stake a claim to a role on this team, missing a chance to work with his new coaches was downright baffling.
All that being said, he currently stands as the biggest miss of the Jon Robinson era by far. Robinson has balanced that miss by having two All-Pros — Jack Conklin and Kevin Byard — in that same draft class so it certainly doesn’t sting quite as bad as it could have. All general managers have misses — even the great Bill Belichick isn’t batting 1.000 — so as long as the hits continue to be Conklin-Byard level, the Dodd’s won’t matter that much. The one thing that Robinson cannot afford to do is allow his pride to get in the way of making the right decision on Dodd though. I don’t expect that it will. He essentially owned up to a miss already this offseason by dumping Sly Williams just one year in to a 3-year deal so we know that he’s not afraid to admit a mistake and move on.
The team won’t save much money by cutting Dodd, but it can simultaneously remove a distraction and send a message to the rest of the roster about the kind of commitment level they expect. Mike Vrabel has said that he will treat players the same way they treat the team. It is apparent that Kevin Dodd has quit on the Titans so it’s time for Mike Vrabel and Jon Robinson to quit on him.